Current Actions - Executive Clemency - US v Leonard Peltier

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  US -v- Peltier

 U.S. v Leonard Peltier (CR NO. C77-3003)

Regarding Clemency

What is 'Executive Clemency' you may well ask. Executive Clemency may take several forms, including pardon, commutation of sentence, remission of fine or restitution, and reprieve.  The President's clemency power extends only to federal criminal offenses.  The Pardon Attorney prepares the recommendation of the U.S.  Department of Justice (DOJ) for the President for final disposition of each application.

Clemency as regards the Peltier case refers to the commutation of his sentence, not a pardon.  A president can decrease the amount of time Leonard Peltier must serve prior to release or immediately release Leonard Peltier for time already served.  A pardon can only be awarded once a released prisoner has been free and hasn't re-offended for a period of five years.

Before leaving office in 2001, then President Bill Clinton did not approve or deny a grant of Executive Clemency to Leonard Peltier.  He opted to do nothing.  According to the clemency guidelines followed by the DOJ, the petition was still pending. However, during the last days of his Administration, George W. Bush DID deny Leonard's clemency petition.

The authority to grant a commutation of a sentence imposed by a federal court belongs only to the President (under Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution).  This means that the clemency regulations are advisory only and for the internal guidance of DOJ personnel.  The decision to commute Leonard Peltier's sentence is the President's and the President's alone.

This leads us to the confusion that exists among supporters about the timing of awards of Executive Clemency.  Many people believe that such awards only occur when a president leaves office.  This is not true. For example, President Bush has issued commutations annually since taking office and even President Clinton awarded clemency at times other than when he left office on January 20, 2001. President Obama has done so, as well.  Our point?  The timing of such awards also is entirely up to the discretion of the President and may occur on the day he/she takes office, his/her last day in office, or any day in between.  A two-term President, of course, provides us with even more opportunity. 

2016 Clemency Application

In February 2016, Leonard Peltier submitted a formal application for a grant of clemency, i.e., commutation of his sentences, to the Office of the Pardon Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, and the White House.

What You Can Do

Write, call, fax and e-mail the White House to express your support for an award of Executive Clemency to Leonard Peltier. In addition to political arguments or debate about the intricacies of the Peltier case, focus on:

  • Equal Rights. "Special treatment" for Leonard Peltier has had the effect of preventing his parole (which should have been awarded over decades ago) or an award of Executive Clemency. This violates our concept of justice and equal protection under the law.

  • Peltier's humanitarian record.

  • Leonard's health.  (See health-related content in the sample letter below.)

  • The impact of his imprisonment on Leonard's family.

You are encouraged to also sign the online clemency petition.

Contact information


President Donald Trump

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, DC  20500


Phone Numbers:


Comments - 202-456-1111

Switchboard - 202-456-1414 (Ask to be connected to the Comment Line)

Fax - 202-456-2461




Sample Letter

President Donald Trump

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, DC  20500

(Insert Date)

Dear President Trump:

If you, as President, truly seek freedom and justice for all, act to right the wrongs committed by our government in years gone by. Begin by granting Executive Clemency to Leonard Peltier.

I believe Peltier was wrongfully convicted for the 1975 shooting deaths of two agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. U.S. prosecutors have repeatedly admitted that they did not and cannot prove Peltier's guilt and the appellate courts have cited numerous instances of investigative and prosecutorial misconduct in this case. As late as November 2003, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals acknowledged that "…Much of the government’s behavior at the Pine Ridge Reservation and its prosecution of Leonard Peltier is to be condemned. The government withheld evidence. It intimidated witnesses. These facts are not disputed."

The courts claim they lack the power to right this wrong but, as President, you can.

In this case, I believe your concern should be for equal treatment. From the time of Peltier's conviction until the mid-1990s, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the average length of imprisonment served for homicide in the United States ranged from 94 to 99.8 months. Even if you were to take Peltier's two consecutive life sentences into account at the higher end of this range, it is clear that Peltier should have been released a very long time ago. His continued imprisonment after over 40 years appears to be nothing less than revenge for a crime Leonard Peltier did not commit. Personalized and politically motivated vengeance of this kind cannot be tolerated. The concepts of justice and good government require that you act to correct this wrong.

Peltier has served his time. Even by the government's own definition, he has already been imprisoned for a lifetime. In that time, he has missed the simplest things of ordinary life—having dinner with friends, taking walks in the woods, gardening, children's laughter, dogs barking, the feel of rain on his face, the sound of birds singing... winter and summer and spring and fall. He has missed seeing his children and grandchildren grow up. They suffer, too. Leonard Peltier is now a great-grandfather. How many more generations must suffer this tragedy? 

Leonard Peltier is over 70 years old and his health is deteriorating. He has suffered a stroke which left him partially blind in one eye. For many years, Peltier had a seriously debilitating jaw condition which left him unable to chew properly and caused consistent pain and headaches. Today, Leonard Peltier continues to suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure, and a heart condition. He risks blindness, kidney failure, stroke, and certainly premature death given his diet, living conditions, and health care.

I say enough is enough, Mr. President. Do the right thing. Grant Executive Clemency to Leonard Peltier right away. 

Thank you for giving fair consideration to Leonard Peltier.





Copyright 2003-2016 International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee

Last Updated on Wednesday May 18, 2016